In January I went back to the UK for a family gathering to mark ten years since my father’s passing. It seemed a good opportunity to introduce my partner Paul to everyone and visit Paul’s parents too, which raised the constant problem of where to stop the visiting – I have friends scattered far and wide across the British Isles and it’s impossible to catch up with everyone, meaning Bryan in Plymouth or Morag in Laurencekirk are bound to feel slighted. Thus, I tend to keep very quiet about my trips to the UK and never post such expeditions on social media.
The first morning with my family in Hatfield, Hertfordshire and Paul, my brother Aidan and I are banished from the living room as my mother hosts a gathering of the local poetry society. Aidan is tasked with providing coffee for the poets, proclaiming – “Forsooth good Sire! I must go forth to coffee make. The poets await their nectar.”, after which we escape to the local Tesco where the guys head for the cafe and I delight in a rare wander round an English supermarket. At the end of the first aisle I walk straight into a spiky-haired woman brandishing a multi-pack of Heinz Baked Beans at me with one hand and a microphone with the other.
“Does this annoy you?” she enquires. Well, having cans of beans forcibly thrust at me is somewhat irksome, now you mention it, I think, but quickly realise I’m being interviewed and switch into journo mode.
“Tesco is going to remove all plastic from multi-packs” Spiky Hair tells me. “What do you think of that?”
“Are they going to remove it from all the ones they’ve already packed?” I ask, “That would seem a waste of energy”. I watch her sigh, and go on to deliver a little quote about saving the planet and well done Tesco, which seems to please her and off she goes. I skip to the cafe to tell Paul and Aidan “I’ve just been interviewed” and, once the poets have departed, instruct my mother to watch out for me in the local paper.
Two days later, I’m in Clifftonville, Kent, chatting with Paul’s mother whilst dinner’s cooking, when my phone starts bleeping with message after message. It appears I’ve been seen on English television. Questioning friends I ask which regional programme it might have been – to learn that I’ve just been interviewed by Emma Simpson on the national BBC News at Six. So much for my incognito trip.
Next morning, we hit the beach – one of my favourite activities, but this is Margate, in January. We’re wearing coats and wellies, and pushing a pram containing Paul’s mother’s elderly shih-tsu, Matey, who can’t walk too far but likes to accompany Janet and her younger Bedlington, Nimbus. The beach is full of dog walkers, all greeting us warmly and commenting on how mild the weather is, as we shiver into our woolly scarves.
Modern UK technology continues to astound us – so many person-less tils. It was in England that I was first asked for a PIN number for my credit card which at the time surprised me greatly; now we need the PIN number in Cyprus, but in the UK the card is merely waved around a little and the deal done. Buying petrol, not only did I have to get out of the car and pour it myself, but many stations would only accept cards, no cash. It’s a complicated country.
And things were about to get more complicated. Our return flight tickets were for 1st February, the day after Brexit. So, Friday 31st January, whilst parties erupted all over the Kingdom; Paul, Aidan and I sat up in my mother’s Hertfordshire living room and watched live footage of silent (still under restoration work) Big Ben lit up red white and blue, whilst recorded bells played at 11pm UK time, as Britain left the European Union. Siblings and Bells Aidan and I looked across the room at eachother and said “Bye” in a moment I’ll never forget.
The next day we flew from Luton without our passports being checked, and landed in Pafos early evening. For one night, we were outside of Europe. It’s good to be home.
Jezebel is one half of GrooveJet Media. Jezebel along with Paul, as well as being performing musicians themselves, have a project studio offering recording and production services to singers, duos, bands, film and video industry, radio and TV, as well as guitar tuition and custom made backing tracks. Our event production side presents various shows both of our own and in collaboration with or providing support for others. Groovejet Entertainments provides work for other musicians and entertainers, and provides venues with suitable acts. The Wedding Groove supplies individual DJs, singers, musicians, bands or whatever the happy couple desire for their wedding party. Visit the Groovejet Media Facebook page to find out more: